For many years, United Ways have used the phrase “give, advocate, volunteer.” Every United Way has figured out how to encourage people to give, and many United Ways provide people with ample opportunities to volunteer. But, advocate has always been like a middle child, more often ignored than recognized, and frequently overlooked altogether. One United Way that has not ignored the role of advocacy in the work of their United Way is United Way of Greater Portland. They have clearly explained how they do advocacy at the local, state, and federal level on their Web site.
But, even more impressive is their Web page inviting people to “Become an Advocate.” This page includes a listing of how people can advocate and basic information related to advocacy. I especially want to focus on how United Way of Greater Portland is using this page to encourage people to advocate.
What are they doing right?
First, the title “Small Steps Add Up to Create Big Change” says it all, as United Way of Greater Portland has listed five simple ways people can advocate. Their five ways include: talking about the issues, writing about the issues, volunteering, using social media, and wearing the “Live United” t-shirt. All five of these ways could be considered small steps and easily accessible and achievable for the average person. Since many people probably do not know exactly what advocacy means, this list of five small steps makes advocacy easier to understand for the average person.
Second, United Way of Greater Portland suggests that people can advocate for their issues of school readiness, high school graduation, and financial stability. Many United Ways will ask people to advocate for an issue they care about, but United Way of Greater Portland takes it a step further by asking people to advocate for the issues being addressed by United Way of Greater Portland. If someone is already a donor to United Way of Greater Portland, and they know that their contribution is going to address school readiness, high school graduation, and financial stability, then asking them to advocate for these same three issues is a logical next step.
Third, United Way of Greater Portland includes a sound clip from an interview with a local resident. This makes their request to advocate very personal as it provides an example of someone who says “Most of us advocate every day.” This sound clip helps encourage people to take the first step. This sound clip is part of United Way of Greater Portland’s LUbrary, which includes lots of stories about the people and work of United Way of Greater Portland. We highlighted their LUbrary in a previous blog post.
Advocacy does not need to take a back seat to giving and volunteering at your United Way. By inviting people to advocate by providing a list of small steps, United Way of Greater Portland has made it easier for people to advocate for the issues being addressed by United Way of Greater Portland. The next time your United Way asks someone to give, advocate, and volunteer, consider how United Way of Greater Portland has made advocacy easy to understand and something that anyone can do. United Way of Greater Portland, you are Doing It Right!